School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Writing Hooks & Reading Books: When grad students get funky

Writing Hooks & Reading Books

Article by Karl Hardy

The Groove Commute members:

  • Keira Loukes, MA Environmental Studies- vocals
  • Christine Grossutti PhD Geography - bass/keys
  • Scott Carey PhD SKHS - trombone
  • Andrea Brennan PhD SKHS - saxophone
  • John Rose PhD Geography - guitars/vocals
  • Matt Ventresca PhD SKHS - guitars/bass/vocals
  • Graham Ketcheson Executive Director for a national non-profit - drums

The Groove Commute playing one of their gigs

The Groove Commute playing one of their gigs

The graduate student community at Queen’s University has given rise to The Groove Commute, a 7-piece band comprised almost entirely of graduate students with influences as eclectic as their respective research interests. They’ve found fun and friendship in making music together all the while balancing research and teaching in pursuit of their graduate degrees. Besides the joy of making music and feeling the support of their community, the members of The Groove Commute also say being in a band has been an invaluable part of their experience of graduate student life.

“Playing music is a catharsis, graduate student life can be very stressful and to have a creative outlet, and a collaborative one at that, has been worth its weight in gold,” says John Rose, the band’s guitarist. “It’s very important to continue to do the things that you enjoy and make you happy while a graduate student,” adds Christine Grossutti, who plays the bass and keys.

The Groove Commute evolved out of a musical collaboration between John Rose (PhD Geography) and Matt Ventresca (PhD SKHS) who originally played together at a few local open mics and eventually a show at the Grad Club. John and Matt were soon joined by Christine Grossutti (PhD Geography) and Scott Carey (PhD SKHS). They created a wish list for new members that included a female vocalist, a full-time drummer, and another horn player. They asked around through their graduate student networks and found a singer in Keira Loukes (MA Environmental Studies), Andrea Brennan (PhD SKHS) who plays the saxophone, and Graham Ketcheson who drums and, is the only non-graduate student member. Graham is the Executive Director for a national non-profit and plays drums in other local bands such as Wing n It and Venus Syndrome.

With the new full lineup they played their first show in January 2015 at the Mansion as The Groove Commute—a name Christine described as “words that sounded good together that we could all agree on”. The band’s name has taken on greater symbolism as Keira currently lives outside Kingston and commutes to practice and several of the band members have returned from field research trips with new song ideas.

The Groove Commute’s sound draws on blues, rock, jazz, soul and folk, and they now have 7 or 8 original songs and a mix of covers by artists that range from Feist to Aretha Franklin to Herbie Hancock.

Though they’ve only been playing together for a short time, the members of The Groove Commute say they’ve gained a lot of support from colleagues and friends, as well as committee members, supervisors, and departmental administrators who have all helped pack their shows. “The longer we play together, the more the lines between academic work and musicianship are blurred; my teaching and research influences my song writing,” says Matt. He and Scott will be co-presenting a paper on the embodied techniques and practices learned through musical performance at the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport in Santa Fe in November. Scott also regularly incorporated music into his recent Teaching Fellowship, using music as a metaphor to address the weekly topics.

For now The Groove Commute are excited about the process of refining their sound, writing new material collaboratively, and are excited to reach new audiences. Plans for a mini tour through southern Ontario and recording have been discussed, though they say their primary goal remains having plenty of fun and continuing to develop their musicianship.

The Groove Commute play the Mansion this Thursday June 11, with Saturday Night Glad Rags tapped to open the show. See the Facebook Event for the show.

The Groove Commute on Facebook

The Groove Commute on Twitter